Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) is congratulated after he scored a goal during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at Amalie Arena. [Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports]

Lightning Stumble To Finish Line With Loss To Buffalo

Tampa Bay’s short skid continued with a third consecutive loss Monday before the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this time a 4-2 loss against the already-eliminated Buffalo Sabres.

Dylan Cozens scored two goals for the Sabres to earn Buffalo its 39th win of the season.

Although Tampa Bay is guaranteed the first wild card in the Eastern Conference, the Lightning have lost all momentum before a playoff series against either Boston or Florida – the top two teams in the Atlantic Division

Tampa Down Early

Within 86 seconds, Cozens found a rebound to put in the back of the net to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead.

After little action for the rest of the 20 minutes, the first period ended at the 1-0 mark for Buffalo.

Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos sparked his team back into it early in the second period, a wrist shot assisted by the NHL’s points leader – Nikita Kucherov.

The goal was Stamkos’ 40th of the season, making it his seventh time reaching that mark in 16 seasons for the Lightning.

All Buffalo From There

After Stamkos’ goal, the Lightning laid back on defense and paid the price for it.

Cozens returned a wrist shot of his own five minutes into the second period, giving Buffalo a 2-1 lead.

Ten minutes later, Jordan Greenway slipped another shot past Lightning goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy to make matters worse for Tampa Bay.

Erik Cernak scored a powerful shot for the Lightning in the third period to cut the Sabres lead.

However, Buffalo put Tampa to bed after Cozens added an assist to his two goals on a Zach Benson tip-in.

At 4-2, the Sabres closed it out and handed Tampa a third consecutive loss.

Approaching The Playoffs

Although they are skidding, the Lightning have one more chance to return to form at home against the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs.

Come playoff time, the Lightning will face whichever of Boston and Florida ends the season second in the Atlantic Division.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs will begin April 20, with the Lightning chasing their fourth Stanley Cup win.

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